Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Statistical Review

What a year!  My 2012 cycling season exceeded my expectations.  I won a race in my first full WORS campaign and finished on the podium in 9 of the 11 races in which I competed, taking second place in my age group in the final Cat 3 (Citizens) standings.  In the WCA cyclocross series I had fun and, occasionally, modest success.  I improved as a time trialist.  Overall, I competed in 22 different races.  I rode outside in all 12 months for the first time ever and topped 5,000 miles for the second consecutive year.  To reach my total of 5,005 miles, I completed a personal-best 204 rides and set personal records for mileage in the five coldest months of the year.  Here is my mileage breakdown month-by-month:

117 January (PR)
137 February (PR)
516 March (PR)
479 April
604 May
621 June
600 July
600 August
516 September
310 October
330 November (PR)
175 December (PR)


In support of my cycling goals and other athletic aspirations, I spent 870 minutes on the trainer and 750 minutes on the treadmill—totals that were lower than usual because I was able to get outside more often—went hiking on 6 occasions and snowshoeing on 2, and completed 156 upper-body strength training workouts.

So, what is the plan for 2013, my 10th season as a cyclist?  It’s still evolving.  I need 4,570 miles to reach 40,000 and I think that’s a worthy goal.  If a year from now I can say that I averaged 4,000 miles per year for 10 years, then I will be very satisfied.  But like this year, 2013 won’t be all about the miles.  Being competitive as a racer will be far more important.  I will tackle another season of WORS—this time as a Cat 2 (Sport) racer—and I hope to do more WEMS races.  Long-distance road events likely will have their place too.  That gran fondo I find so intriguing, the Ride Across Indiana, is still out there.  If RAIN makes it onto my 2013 calendar, then I might do a couple of brevets and centuries to prepare for it.  When next fall comes around, I want to be smarter about my goals and preparations for the cyclocross season so that I don’t run out of gas before the state championships.

Watch for more specific plans in January as WEMS, Wisport and the WCA finalize their schedules.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Planet Fitness

Lots of equipment for not a lot of money.
For me, Christmas is the end of the holiday season.  I just can’t be bothered with New Year’s, eve or day, occasions that offer me neither gifts nor special meals.  And lately I have been eating too much anyway.  It’s time to rediscover better eating habits and it’s time to work out more.  A lot of people felt that way today, I’m sure, but unlike many of them I am not waiting until the start of the new year to make a change.

Today I joined Planet Fitness, selecting the 1-year membership for $99 … less than $2 per week!  Planet Fitness has the convenience of 24-hour access and all the equipment I could need, especially good treadmills.  I’m sure I will use the strength training equipment too—particularly for the lower body, which I can’t exercise as effectively at home—but access to good treadmills was my principal consideration.  I said in a previous post that treadmill workouts don’t figure heavily in my fitness program … that might change.

I think I spent about $750 on my home treadmill back in 1997 and I got my money’s worth, but today it is literally falling apart:
Noisy motor, dead display panel, disintegrating belt.  Not worth fixing.
A decent treadmill can cost $2,000 or more and it’s not worth making such a big investment for a piece of equipment I probably would use only 25-40 hours per year.  The professional-grade equipment at Planet Fitness is so nice that I am contemplating a little bit of treadmill running to torch some of the belly fat I never seem to lose.  In my experience, nothing burns fat like running.  But also in my experience, nothing hurts my knees, ankles and shins like running.  In the controlled environment of the gym I can introduce a little running without some of the risks I would encounter outdoors.

Today’s trip to Planet Fitness was just an introduction.  I walked for an hour with the treadmill speed set at 3.5 mph and the incline set at 1 percent.  That easy effort still burned about 400 calories, and there are much greater efforts to come as I get deeper into the new workout plan.  I haven’t figured out all of the details, but it’s a good feeling to start something new and I hope my enthusiasm carries me through the winter.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another One Bites The Dust

Earth as seen by the Apollo 8 crew on Dec. 24, 1968.
And the world just keeps on spinning.  If the Mayans couldn’t see their own imminent demise, then what chance did they have to see ours in what was, from their point of view, a distant future?  I’ve lost track of how many doomsdays I have survived.  There will be more, I feel certain.  But I have no supernatural understanding of things to come, just an assumption based on experience.  Despite a history of failure the prophets will continue to conjure their lies and fantasies, then promote them to us out of religious zeal or (more likely) a desire to separate us from our wallets.  If you’d like to get in on the fun, I have two suggestions.  First, don’t set an exact date.  Second, make the imagery of your apocalyptic vision so impossibly weird that even the people who are too smart to believe in its literal truth can debate what you really meant.

If yesterday had been the last day on Earth, then at least I would have gone out well.  I spent the evening in the company of several of my finest cycling friends.  We weren’t riding, but we were reminiscing about the past year and looking forward to the next.  Of course, much of the new racing schedule is still unknown.  WORS announced its 2013 dates way back in August, parts of the ABR and Wisport calendars are available online, and I know a couple of WEMS dates that haven’t yet been published.  There’s nothing yet from the WCA, but that’s not the end of the world.  The WCA is always among the last organizations to announce its schedule … even though most of its events fall on the same weekends, year in and year out.

I’ve never done a WCA road event, so why should I care about that schedule?  The answer is Cheesehead Roubaix.  I would prefer not to schedule it against a nearby WCA race, because some of the people I’m trying to attract to my event would likely go to the race instead.  Sunday, Apr. 28, is still the most likely date for the 2013 edition of Cheesehead Roubaix.  I wouldn’t mind settling into a predictable pattern, always scheduling the event on the Sunday before the first WORS race.  My ride is a good fitness test, even if there are no hills on it to compare with the challenges at the WORS season opener in Iola.  Stay tuned; I will have an official announcement soon.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Roll With The Changes

Inflexible is a word that almost always has negative connotations.  For those things that we don’t want to be flexible—the bottom bracket of a bicycle, for instance—we typically use positively-charged words like “strong” or “resilient” instead of inflexible.  As a cyclist I don’t want to be inflexible in the physical sense or in my approach to training, and during the last seven days I have come to appreciate a training tool that I would have mocked not long ago.

That’s my new foam roller, the correct use of which is supposed to ensure greater flexibility, to improve blood flow and to relieve sore muscles.  A lot of cyclists tout the benefits of massage.  At the highest levels of the sport, there are team assistants whose entire careers are based on their ability to rub, press or knead the discomfort from the riders’ muscles.  At my level of the sport?  Well, sometimes there are massage services for hire at the end of organized bike tours, but I have never availed myself of them.  I don’t often experience soreness—I exercise too frequently for that to happen—but I do get tight and inflexible.  Getting an occasional massage would be nice but I’m not about to pay for it.  For around $30, a good foam roller is an inexpensive option … perhaps not as therapeutic as a professionally-administered rubdown, but more cost- and time-effective.

I have used my foam roller every day since I bought it last Friday and so far, so good.  I can’t say that I’ve gained any flexibility yet, but the roller was effective against a couple of kinks in my legs.  Spots that hurt when I first applied the foam roller don’t hurt anymore.  Is there better proof than that?  As with any tool, there are techniques that one must learn to ensure maximum effectiveness.  I’m still learning but already I’m convinced that the roller will be especially useful when I get back into the high mileage months of my cycling season.

Friday, December 14, 2012

An Unexpected Journey

The road goes ever on and on ...
As this year began I didn’t think I had a realistic chance to reach 5,000 miles of cycling.  With 5,113 miles in 2011, I had crossed that threshold for the first time ever.  But here I am again: riding this afternoon on my lunch break I reached 5,005 miles, year-to-date.  Am I done?  I don’t know.  Certainly I won’t be as motivated to ride now that the milestone is behind me, but surpassing 5,113 isn’t out of the question.

2012 wasn’t supposed to play out like this.  I knew I would be racing more this year.  I knew I would be spending more time on mountain biking.  Having another high mileage year happened organically, a function of riding often instead of riding far.  My average ride this year is just 24.5 miles, but I’ve done 204 rides!

I didn’t have any mileage goals coming into 2012 and I won’t set any for 2013.  But I wouldn’t be caught off-guard by a third consecutive 5,000-mile year.  I’m looking at some endurance events for my 2013 calendar, preparation for which could take me to new levels.  I keep telling myself not to try to repeat in 2013 the sequence of events that made 2012 so special.  Some of my friends and teammates have hinted at their plans for the new year and the theme seems to be a desire to keep things fresh by not simply following the same schedule again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12

When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around.
If you’re into numerology, then today is tailor-made for you!  And you’re an idiot.  The universe is unimpressed by our feeble attempts to quantify its movements.  Though modern timekeeping is extremely accurate, it still reaches back to an unknowable past for its point of origin.

But still: 12-12-12.  If I were of the sort who looks for meaning in numbers, then I could find it easily in 12.  My daughter is 12 years old.  Today is my twelfth December 12 as a resident of West Bend.  Since I was born, there have been 12 leap years.  I wear size 12 shoes … except when I’m cycling.  Then my feet expand to a robust 46 EUR.  On Monday, shortly after 12 p.m., I received an email informing me that Team Pedal Moraine will hold its annual business meeting on Jan. 12.  On Feb. 12 I will begin a 12-week preseason training plan designed to ensure my fitness for the new racing season.  The new WORS season will consist of 12 races, whether I compete in all of them or not.

Back to the present: there’s nothing about 12 that is more or less special than the other numbers.  I include a lot of numbers in this blog and not one has any mystical significance.  Not one taps into some universal truth or clue to our collective destiny.  But sport, like time, demands to be quantified.  My numbers tell me what I’ve accomplished and then motivate me for new efforts.  There’s one more number I want to hit this year: 5,000 miles.  I’m just 50 miles away and we’re going to have reasonably nice weather for a few days.  It would be a great way to finish 2012, the first year in which I have ridden outside in each of the 12 months.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

200 Rides

I’m proud of the milestone I reached today: 200 rides this year.  I took advantage of the sunny, 54-degree afternoon to ride during my hour-long lunch break.  If not for the 20-30 mph winds, I might have taken the whole afternoon off!  Sure, even in Wisconsin there are people who ride year-round, regardless of weather.  Good for them.  I’m not the fair-weather-only rider I used to be—my 2004 season began on March 26 and ended on Oct. 29—but I still have my limits.

It has been a real pleasure to ride on each of the first four days of December, but now I might be done.  I don’t see anything I like in the 10-day forecast.  But with just 68 miles to go for a 5,000-mile year, I could find just enough motivation to ride on a couple of days that otherwise wouldn’t be appealing.  We’ll see.  By this time in 2008, I was already into my indoor trainer workouts.  The longer I can put those off without seriously compromising my bike-specific fitness, the better.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Keeping The Gears Turning

Because I wanted to concentrate on racing and not merely on racking up a lot of miles, I began 2012 with no mileage goals.  Nevertheless, I will finish the year with a handful of personal records, including a new mileage mark for December.  I rode 43 miles on Saturday and 30 more today for a total of 73 … and I’m probably going to add to it before the month is over.  That beats the old record of just 45 miles, set last year.  I also set new personal bests in January, February, March, and November.  With my year-to-date total now at 4,903 miles, I can hope for my second consecutive 5,000-mile year.  Surpassing last year’s 5,113 still appears unlikely and will require another spell of uncommonly warm weather.

If today’s weather had been more typical of Dec. 2, then I might have been tempted by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin’s annual bike swap at UW-Milwaukee.  But really I don’t need much right now; on Friday I received a couple of cassettes I had ordered, and this week I will receive a nice flat handlebar to replace one that is too wide and too heavy.  With the new parts installed the 29er should be ready for early spring training.  It will get a new chain, new cables and new cable housing before the racing season begins.

Tomorrow I will add weight to a couple of my home gym exercises.  That’s always a good feeling.  But my treadmill is in rough shape and I’m not sure I should still be using it.  It’s 15 years old and the belt is disintegrating.  I don’t know whether replacing the belt is a good investment.  I use the treadmill only 15-20 hours per year now that I have a bike trainer and a greater willingness to exercise outside during the winter—whether riding, hiking, or snowshoeing.  The treadmill is a nice thing to have for a change of pace, but I don’t use it for serious training.